Google's main search platform has been blocked in China since 2010, but it has been attempting to make new inroads into China.
The search engine, codenamed Dragonfly, was designed for Android devices, and would remove content deemed sensitive by China's ruling Communist Party regime, such as information about political dissidents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest. The report also says Google created a blacklist of words that included the Mandarin phrases for "student protest", "human rights", and "Nobel Prize".
A prototype of the search engine linked each search to the user's phone number, making it easier to tell what an individual person looked up - no doubt an appealing feature for the Chinese government. People working for the joint venture would have the capability to update the search term blacklists, the sources said, raising new questions about whether Google executives in the USA would be able to maintain effective control and oversight over the censorship. Google Search now obtains weather information from external services, like The Weather Channel.
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Another troubling detail revealed by The Intercept comes from how the search service will report weather data.
The search engine would be operated as part of a "joint venture" partnership with a company based in mainland China, according to sources familiar with the project.
More than 1,000 Google employees, six US senators and at least fourteen human rights groups have written to the company expressing concern about its China ambitions.
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Google declined to comment directly on the lawmakers' letter or the resignations but said in a statement it had been "investing for many years to help Chinese users" and described its "work on search" for China as "exploratory" and "not close to launching".
In the meantime, pressure on Google has only intensified. On Thursday, 16 US lawmakers wrote to Google CEO Sundar Pichai expressing "serious concerns" about Dragonfly and demanding information about the company's China plans. Meanwhile, Jack Poulson, a former Google senior research scientist, told The Intercept that he was one of about five employees to have resigned from the company due to the Dragonfly plans.
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